Bats: Dispel the Myths and Learn the Truths at Farm Science Review

September 3, 2008

LONDON, Ohio -- Fact or fiction: Bats are flying rodents. Not true. Bats feed on human blood. Nope. Bats love to get tangled in your hair. Wrong again. Get the real facts about this unique animal at this year's Ohio State University Farm Science Review.

Marne Titchenell, an Ohio State University Extension wildlife program specialist, will present "Bats: Fact or Fiction?" at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 16 and 17 at the Gwynne Conservation Area Wildlife Amphitheatre. The presentation will explore the ins and outs of a bat's life, bat house do's and don'ts, and how to deal with bats as unexpected houseguests.

Farm Science Review will be held Sept. 16-18 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

"People really don't know a lot about bats, so they are a bit scared and intimidated by them. But I've found that they are excited to want to learn more about them," said Titchenell. "The idea behind this presentation is to dispel some of the rumors surrounding bats and teach visitors the facts."

One of those misconceptions is that bats are flying rodents. They are mammals, but are not rodents. Instead, they belong to a special group of mammals called chiroptera, named for their modified flying hand.

Another misconception is that bats are bloodsuckers. Of the 950 bat species, only three eat blood and rarely is it human blood.

"People also believe that bats will get tangled in their hair, which isn't true. They are after the bugs flying around you which is why they seem to swoop so close," said Titchenell. "In fact, a bat's echolocation -- its mechanism for hearing -- is so acute, it can detect objects as fine as a human hair. So that dispels the tangled hair myth."

Ohio is home to 13 species of bats, all of which eat insects. The most common bats found in Ohio include the little brown bat, the big brown bat and the red bat.

Titchenell, who studied bats as a graduate student, strives to educate others about the bat and its unique characteristics and behavior. The little brown bat, for example, can eat 60 percent to 80 percent of its own body weight.

"The little brown bat can eat 300-400 insects in one night," said Titchenell. "That's a lot of insects for a mammal the size of a hummingbird."

Because of its unique characteristics, bats are in a tough spot. Bats account for about one-fifth of the world's mammal species, but more than half of them are endangered or declining at an alarming rate, according to Bat Conservation International.

"Unlike mammals their size, which produce offspring in large numbers, bats only produce one or two pups a year, making them more vulnerable to extinction if their habitats are altered or destroyed," said Titchenell.

In addition to bats, visitors to Farm Science Review will also learn more about bluebirds and how to attract this colorful, melodious bird to their backyard. Titchenell will present "Bluebird Bios" at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 16 and 11 a.m. on Sept. 18 at the Gwynne Conservation Area Wildlife Amphitheatre. The session will cover the basics of bluebird biology, as well as creating bluebird boxes for the backyard.

Farm Science Review is sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. It attracts upwards of 140,000 visitors from all over the country and Canada, who come for three days to peruse 4,000 product lines from 600 commercial exhibitors, and learn the latest in agricultural research, conservation, family and nutrition, and gardening and landscape.

Tickets are $8 at the gate or $5 in advance when purchased from county offices of OSU Extension or participating agribusinesses. Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 16-17 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 18.

For more information, log on to http://fsr.osu.edu.

Author(s): 
Candace Pollock
Source(s): 
Marne Titchenell